Tuesday, January 4, 2011

By Jay Bobbin
Tribune Media Services

STARTING THIS WEEK: "THE AMERICAN": The title is accurate in terms of this well-filmed vehicle for an unusually somber George Clooney, who really is the only American in the European-made story of a hit man who mulls getting out of the business and takes some downtime in Italy after a mission goes wrong. The locals make him feel welcome - particularly one woman (Violante Placido) he develops feelings for - but opening himself up to others increases the odds he won't survive much longer. DVD extras: "making-of" documentary; audio commentary by director Anton Corbijn; deleted scenes. *** (R: AS, N, V) (Also on Blu-ray)

"RESIDENT EVIL: AFTERLIFE": Milla Jovovich is back again as heroine Alice, still seeking refuge from a population largely turned into zombies by a virus, in this sci-fi thriller from returning writer-director Paul W.S. Anderson. Los Angeles promises to offer safe haven, but it's not quite that way when Alice and company arrive, forcing them to engage in battle anew. Ali Larter ("Heroes") and Wentworth Miller ("Prison Break") also star in the tale, which can be viewed in its theatrical 3-D version on appropriately equipped Blu-ray players. DVD extras: two "making-of" documentaries; audio commentary by Anderson. ** (R: AS, P, GV) (Also on Blu-ray)

"TWELVE": One of director Joel Schumacher's biggest and most enduring successes is "St. Elmo's Fire," and he turns his attention to another ultramodern group of young people in this drama. Chace Crawford ("Gossip Girl") is the first among equals as a teenager who makes a steady income by peddling drugs to a privileged clientele. Complications arise when his cousin runs into trouble. Emma Roberts, Rory Culkin, Erik Per Sullivan ("Malcolm in the Middle") and Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson also star; Kiefer Sutherland narrates. *** (R: AS, P, N, V) (Also on Blu-ray)

"AND SOON THE DARKNESS": A cult-classic thriller of the early 1970s is the basis of this update casting two of today's most-employed young actresses, Amber Heard ("The Stepfather") and Odette Yustman ("You Again"), as Americans vacationing in Argentina. The Yustman character vanishes, and the fact that other tourists have been abducted lately doesn't comfort Heard, who gets assistance from a fellow hotel guest (Karl Urban, "Star Trek") in conducting a search. DVD extras: audio commentary by director and co-writer Marcos Efron, editor Tod Miller and cinematographer Gabriel Beristain; deleted scenes; "Director's Video Diary." *** (R: AS, P, V) (Also on Blu-ray)

"LEGACY": Seen recently in the BBC America series "Luther," Idris Elba plays another law seeker in this drama, but one who isn't quite as stable. Back in the U.S. after his European mission as a covert operative went bad, he isn't sure whether to focus on healing himself or risking all he has - including his life - to make things right. Eamonn Walker and Clarke Peters co-star. *** (R: AS, P, GV)

"HANDSOME HARRY": An impressive cast, headed by former "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" co-star Jamey Sheridan in the title role, does much to keep this watchable. Harry is a divorced businessman content to lead a simple small-town life ... until a former Navy comrade (Steve Buscemi), who's dying, summons him to find another fellow officer in time to make some long-delayed amends. Aidan Quinn, John Savage, Campbell Scott ("Damages"), Karen Young and Titus Welliver ("The Good Wife") also appear. *** (R: AS, P)

COMING SOON: "DINNER FOR SCHMUCKS" (Jan. 4): To score points with the boss, a businessman (Paul Rudd) tries to meet the challenge of bringing the biggest fool he can find (Steve Carell) to a social occasion. (PG-13: AS, N, P)

"THE LAST EXORCISM" (Jan. 4): Trying to salvage whatever he still can of his reputation, an exposed pseudo-exorcist (Patrick Fabian) has a camera crew record his attempt to save a girl's soul. (PG-13: AS, P, V)

"MACHETE" (Jan. 4): Danny Trejo, usually a supporting player, gets a showcase role in the Robert Rodriguez-co-directed saga of an ex-lawman on a path of revenge; Robert De Niro, Jessica Alba and Steven Seagal also star. (R: AS, N, P, GV)

"PIRANHA" (Jan. 11): Available in the 3-D form in which it played in theaters (as well as regular 2-D), this update of the cult-classic thriller stars Elisabeth Shue as a sheriff trying to protect her populace from deadly fish. (R: AS, N, P, V)

"TAKERS" (Jan. 18): A no-nonsense policeman (Matt Dillon) tails a slick bank-robbery gang. Idris Elba, Hayden Christensen and music star Chris Brown also appear. (PG-13: AS, N, P, V)

"STONE" (Jan. 25): Robert De Niro stars as a parole officer tempted by the wife (Milla Jovovich) of a convict (Edward Norton) - part of the married couple's scheme to secure the husband's release early. (R: AS, P, V)

FAMILY-VIEWING GUIDE KEY: AS, adult situations; N, nudity; P, profanity; V, violence; GV, particularly graphic violence.


This column was originally printed in the January 2 - January 15, 2011 edition.


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